The Trail of Evil Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
Part 8: Is Breivik Different from Other Terrorists Such as Islamists and Anarchists?
Breivik applies a concept with left-wing origins: "propaganda of the deed," which dates back to 19th century anarchism. The idea here is that individual acts of violence are essential to sparking social transformation -- a notion that was embraced by these anarchists and, later, by Germany's Red Army Faction (RAF) in the 1970s.
But left-wing terrorists killed their victims in operations targeting specific individuals who represented the hated establishment. The RAF took into account that this could entail collateral damage, and that people who were close to the group's targets, such as drivers and policemen, might die. Indiscriminate mass murder, however, was anathema to Western leftists.
Breivik noted that he liked the 2008 film "The Baader Meinhof Complex," which deals with the early years of the RAF, yet he didn't say what appealed to him, and he wasn't inclined to emulate the tactics of left-wing terrorists, as described in the film.
Instead, he was more of a "lone wolf who has been very intent on staying under the radar of the security services by leading a lawful life," as Janne Kristiansen, the head of Norway's Police Security Service (PST), told Time magazine.
The lone wolf or werewolf is a concept that has been circulating in right-wing circles since the final days of World War II. At the time, diehard Nazis dreamed of guerrilla cells that would instigate the final struggle of the Aryan race.
Breivik also borrowed liberally from the "Unabomber Manifesto," which outlines the confusing anti-industrial world view of American terrorist Ted Kaczynski, who sent parcel bombs to university professors and corporate executives. Yet the Unabomber's campaign of sporadic killings didn't appeal to Breivik.
There have been mass murders in the past committed by right-wing extremists. For instance, there was the bombing of the main railway station in Bologna in 1980, which resulted in 85 deaths, and the Munich Oktoberfest bombing in 1980, which killed 13 people and injured hundreds. There was also a series of attacks in London that resulted in three deaths in 1999. This killing spree was committed by David Copeland, a man who harbored an intense hatred of immigrants and gays.
But there has never been a terrorist inspired by right-wing ideology who sees himself as a "crusader" and murders in the name of "Christendom" and "Western civilization."
Mohammed Atta's Mirror Image
Breivik was a man with a plan. He planned to kill infidels. He prepared for nine long years, endeavored to avoid detection -- and succeeded. He remained inconspicuous until the day of the attacks.
He intended to send a message, in the name of God, to this world, which he sees as degenerate -- and he knew there was also a good possibility that he would die in the process. In his manifesto, which he wrote as a sort of last will and testament, he mentioned several times that he sees himself as a "martyr."
He wants to impose a world of rigid, backward morality in which women are subservient, children can be severely disciplined, and God the Almighty has decreed that men should rule -- a curious Christian reflection of the beliefs of the Muslim extremists that Breivik abhors. The Norwegian has quite a few things in common with Mohammed Atta, the man who crashed the plane into the North Tower of New York's World Trade Center during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
An Atta of the West, one could call him. In a sense, what happened in Norway is a mirror image of the events in New York on Sept. 11, 10 years ago.
True, Atta killed far more people than Breivik, and caused far more destruction. But both attacks were horrific and totally unexpected, and both represented a turning point for the world that experienced them.
'Morality Has Lost Its Meaning'
This was Norway's 9/11 moment, as commentators later wrote, only that this moment was triggered by a blond Norwegian. In an almost absurd way, this man has adopted the methods and rhetoric of the hated Islamists to wage his very own personal war, nearly 10 years after the attacks of 9/11, at a time when many top American analysts believe that the al-Qaida terror network is in decline.
"In many ways, morality has lost its meaning in our struggle," he writes in his manifesto. Breivik also states that those who are unwilling to martyr themselves for the cause are not suited to becoming Knights Templar. He also claims to renounce women and many worldly pleasures to devote himself exclusively to his plan. Just as Atta made his last will and testament, and the other terrorists of Sept. 11 left their legacy for posterity in video recordings, Breivik has worked on the fame that he expected would follow his attacks, playing for the crowd and revealing his insidious world of ideas.
He says that he is at war. It is a war of martyrs who will soon be assembled in the "Kingdom of Heaven," he writes. This sounds very much like the "holy war" of the jihadists -- except that the 72 virgins are missing. It is a clash of civilizations, a struggle against the political establishment -- and it has similarities with Osama bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war on Americans, the struggle against the crusaders of the West who the Islamists saw as such a threat.
"This latest act of religious hatred, carried out in the name of cultural purity," wrote Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University, in an article in the American magazine The New Republic, "signals the febrile acceptance of Osama bin Laden's invitation to reignite the medieval holy war between Islam and the Christian West."
The meticulous planning over the years, mired in a cobbled-together worldview that is immune to criticism, the reference to a higher order in whose name blood supposedly has to flow -- these are all elements that al-Qaida and Breivik unquestionably have in common. If this is madness, then it's madness with a good dose of method behind it.
There is also the terrifying determination with which they take leave of normal life, all for the sake of their missions. One learns to fly so he can use a plane as a bomb. The other leases a farm so he can purchase fertilizer, which he then uses to make bombs.
Unlike Atta, Breivik doesn't appear to be surrounded by a crowd of accomplices. Unlike Atta, he had to kill many of his victims individually.
He, the narcissist, did not submit himself to his God, as Atta did. Instead, he calls on God for support. "God will anoint you with his power to go into battle," he writes, as part of his advice for his fellow Knights.
Breivik is intoxicated by the lure of power. He links the bombing, which he only saw from afar, with the cold, deliberate murder that he carried out personally. He creates a combination of the two, mixing the force of the detonating bomb with the cold precision of school shooters who kill individually and deliberately.
Breivik sought to play God, to decide who will live or die. He took aim at some of his victims on the island, yet allowed them to live. Perhaps this gave him even more satisfaction.
He was able to carry out this plan, yet he was actually prepared, at least according to what he wrote, to become a martyr the next day.
He planned to go down in history as a great man -- that was the idea. He had already designed a Knights Templar tombstone with all sorts of right-wing bombast as an inscription. "Born into Marxist slavery on xx.xx.19xx. Died as a martyr," the tombstone was to read. The text also included the significant line: "All free Europeans are in your eternal debt."
- Part 1: Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
- Part 2: How Does an Average Citizen Turn into a Mass-Murderer?
- Part 3: Is Breivik a Psychopath?
- Part 4: How Does the Perpetrator Justify His Crimes?
- Part 5: Where Did Breivik Derive His Ideas From?
- Part 6: Who Are the People Who Influenced Breivik Intellectually?
- Part 7: How Do Right-Wing Bloggers Defend Themselves Against Accusations that They Bear Part of the Blame?
- Part 8: Is Breivik Different from Other Terrorists Such as Islamists and Anarchists?
- Part 9: Why Didn't Anyone Notice What Breivik Was Planning?